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Thursday, 3 August, 2000, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Message for Brown on family life
Ministers should keep families together, says Ed Straw
Home Secretary Jack Straw's brother has told Gordon Brown to spend more money promoting stable families - the day the chancellor got married.

Ed Straw, who is chairman of Relate, the former Marriage Guidance Council, attacked the government's family policies and Mr Brown's spending priorities.

There really is a major issue for Gordon Brown ... does he realise that stable, contented, productive families ... are actually very good economics?

Ed Straw
He said that while the government was "spending a fortune" on family issues, the money was too often spent on the cost of failure, rather than preventing family and social breakdown.

Mr Straw's comments came in an interview for LWT's Love Bites Back programme, to be broadcast at midnight on Friday.

He said: "The government is currently spending a fortune, often on the family, but it's all about picking up the pieces ... when things go wrong - social services, care, crime, educational under-attainment, low employability and so-on.

"Now if you take all of that money and stick it into prevention and helping at the right time, it's not actually, in the long run, about spending more money."

Family life 'cuts spending'

Mr Straw said: "It's about cutting government expenditure - and on top of that, the more family stability you have, the less benefits payments you make.

"There really is a major issue for Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer - does he realise that stable, contented, productive families, of whatever form, are actually very good economics?"

Mr Brown hit the headlines on Thursday with his marriage to long-time girlfriend, Sarah Macaulay.

Mr Straw went on: "In terms of looking at the realities of a divorce, we need a good divorce process, if that's not a contradiction in terms. Currently, it's a nonsense."

On family policies, Mr Straw said: "The state does odd things when it should be getting out the way, and it doesn't do things when it should be getting in the way."

'Wrong target'

He went on: "What the government should be doing is parenting education, relationship education, sex education, skilling people in ways which mean people can live their lives better and make better choices.

"Do you want to make divorce harder or relationships easier? I would go for making relationships easier.

"We're shooting at the wrong target. The target has to be parenting and relationships and the quality of life within that family."

The government's new Learning and Skills Bill includes guidelines for teachers saying they should stress the importance of marriage and family life in bringing up children, and also warn children against rushing into premature sexual activity.

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See also:

03 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Brown stops the gossips
03 Aug 00 | UK
Joy as chancellor weds
10 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Teachers told to promote marriage
24 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Family tax credit reform in 2003
21 Mar 00 | Budget2000
Crusade to end child poverty
01 Dec 99 | UK
Divorce change dropped
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